For Langston | Shatter This Darkness…Into a Thousand Lights of Sun

Today would have been Langston Hughes’ 118th birthday. Some of my Hughes books are in my [work] office; others are unfortunately buried in one of my many unpacked boxes, so I didn’t have the pleasure of revisiting my precious books and slowly inhaling the pages.

Like so many other Black poets, I fell in love with Langston Hughes through the books on my older siblings’ bookshelves. I took a course focusing on Hughes in graduate school and was sorely disappointed by the instructor’s style. He was knowledgeable but not an effective facilitator. He missed Hughes’ brilliance in his focus on the “celebrity” and ambiguity of Hughes.

I accidentally shot the “abstract” photo this morning while finishing up a letter to a friend. It pairs well with the closing lines of Hughes’ poem, “As I Grew Older.”

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

–Langston Hughes, “As I Grew Older”

Many read this poem and see disillusionment. The speaker of the poem dismisses the idealism and replaces it with the realization that in America his Blackness stands as a barrier to his dream. However, there is hope here too…He has “almost forgotten” the dream, but he recognizes that thick walls of racism can be breached, toppled even, by his dark hands.

Moreover…

Dark hands united with other hands can “shatter the darkness…into a thousand whirling dreams of sun.”

In This Moment…

In this moment, I am Monday evening weary, but I am enjoying the quiet just before bedtime and the beautiful note written by Nicole E., my partner for Love Notes 30. For the first prompt, “In this moment,” she penned:

In this moment…

…you are a gift of love to all those who meet you.
…your desires of the heart are being nurtured by Mother Nature.
…everything you need for success is in the very place you stand. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and look around you. Inspiration is right there.
…you are not only enough, but you are allowed to ask for more.
…there is a cup of tea waiting for you to savor every sip. It wants to reveal its magic to you.
…I have enjoyed writing this note to you!

Nicole wrote her note inside an elegant laser cut card by Mara-Mi. I can’t seem to photograph the card adequately, but you can see a picture of the card here: Mara-Mi Floral Card.

The roses are in honor of my mom’s birthday. She’s 83 today! 🙂

Until next time…

How Much Is the Doggie in the Window?

After declaring that I would participate in Nancy Merrill’s photo challenge (a couple of weeks ago), I realized two things:

  1. I had already decided to participate in the weekly challenge hosted by Capture 52, a private Facebook photography group, and
  2. it’s often near impossible for me to find the time to photograph the weekly subjects, no matter how intriguing.

Therefore, I’ve decided to participate in a way that allows me a creative moment without the [self-imposed] stress–a mix of Nancy’s challenge, the Capture 52 challenge, and shots of whatever speaks to me when I can’t “find” anything to photograph related to the prompts.

Today, I’m sharing one of the photos I captured for the Capture 52 Week 4 prompt: Green.

Who knew I’d discover green puppies in a shop window? I couldn’t resist taking a shot with my phone camera or singing the song, “How Much Is the Doggie in the Window?” Are you singing it too?

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for #ThursdayTreeLove. Maybe, there will be more green!

A Photo a Week | Opposite Weather

I decided to participate in Nancy Merrill’s “Photo a Week” Challenge this year. Even though my camera is a constant companion, I have not done well with yearlong photo challenges. However, I’m inspired by my blogging friend Laurie’s completion of 52 weeks of photos last year, and I’m hoping to change that.

As I was driving last weekend, I noticed we’ve reached the stage of winter in which brown and gray dominate. I miss the brilliance of autumn, so I was pleased to find Nancy’s post coaxing us out of the dull gray and into the color of any of the other seasons with the prompt “opposite weather.”

I eagerly scrolled through my autumn photos and found two pics of oak leaves taken one brisk autumn morning just before Thanksgiving–my last shots of Autumn 2019.

The year’s last, loveliest smile,
Thou com’st to fill with hope the human heart,
And strengthen it to bear the storms awhile,
Till winter’s frowns depart.
John Howard Bryant, from “Indian Summer”
(often misattributed to his brother, Poet William cullen Bryant)

Enjoy, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for #ThursdayTreeLove!

From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.

Heartwounds | #WordlessWednesday

I left my final class of the day saddened by comments made by one of the students. In our discussion about how two films define love, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and freedom, she spewed venom about love in a way that shocked most of the other students.

Sometimes it’s easier for a wounded individual to speak from anger than it is to confront deep pain, but, as an English professor, it’s not my place to “psychoanalyze” her or any other student. It is my “job,” however, to help her develop sound intellectual traits. But, because of her wound, she could not see the shortsightedness of her thinking.

I thought about my student this evening as I was reading through Anointed to Fly, a poetry collection by Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. The words of “Heartwounds” [below] seemed to leap off the page. With incredible insight, the poem describes the  persistent ache of a woman who [once] loved.  I thought about my student as I read the poem.

“Heartwounds”
Gloria Wade Gayles, Anointed to Fly

Some men have not learned that heartwounds
as deep as a woman’s need for love
do not respond to phoney curatives
of roses, sweetened words and
make-up passion in scented rooms.

They do not heal themselves
with the passing of time
which erases time only
but not pain and the memory
of pain.

Let untreated
heartwounds become
sores
scabs
scars
ugly reminders of flawed love.

Some men believe
women were born
to endure
to understand
to forgive
to be irrational in all things.

It is that way,
they tell us,
with the pull of the moon.

They will not learn
perhaps cannot learn
that a woman’s heart
damaged by multiple wounds
beats faintly

and then

not
at
all


I’m sorry this isn’t a happy poem, and that this #WordlessWednesday is kind of wordy. You can skip the poem and just look at the pretty picture if you wish. I’ve been practicing photographing roses, so you’ll see another rose photo soon.